Tuning and ECU (Engine Control Unit) Flashing are done as a way to increase the power of your vehicle and/or improve the driveability/rideability. This is done by modifying computer code in the ECU to make the engine behave differently. Since your average Joe cannot dyno tune and flash their ECU at home to get the best out of their vehicle, ECU Tuning is always thought of as a bit of “Black Magic”. The fact is all modern vehicles come heavily restricted in their factory form to meet emissions and noise requirements. Yes, even your mum’s Toyota Corolla can produce more power with a new exhaust system and ECU reflash to suit.
ECU flashes on modern day bikes don’t just give you more power, they make the bike a lot more friendly to ride. Here is an example of a simple ECU flash done by Superbike Unlimited.
Remove all throttle based restrictions
Fully revised Power Modes
Remove all speed and gear based restrictions
Optimize ignition timing for 91+ octane pump fuel
Fully customized fuel mapping
Customized race throttle maps for Power Mode 1-3 (4 left stock for bad conditions)
Customized engine braking strategies
Ability to load Power Commander maps directly onto your ECU
Adjustable radiator fan temps for more efficient cooling
Adjustable rev limiter
Disable closed loop mode
Adjustable velocity stack opening point
Disabling the factory AIS (smog) system
Disabled EXUP & error recall
Disabled fuel injector cut
Disabled steering damper (removes code for aftermarket units)
Our 2015 YZF-R1 ECU Flash features 3 custom full power throttle and ignition maps integrated into Power modes 1-3.
PWR 1 features a very aggressive, quick turn throttle feel. PWR 2 is a bit more linear in how it reacts and has less sensitivity than PWR 1. Many racers and track day users prefer this throttle map. PWR 3 Is most linear and least sensitive of the full power modes, and is great for a rider who prefers a very linear throttle.
This ECU flash requires that you send in your ECU to them and they “flash” the board. This loads a whole bunch of new changes to the ECU. In this case, the fuelling and ignition is changed which allows more power to be made, however restrictions imposed by the Yamaha factory are also removed which makes the bike feel more “alive”. You can also see new changes such as the radiator fan temperature, adjustable rev limiter and engine braking adjustment is also available. None of these features would otherwise be accessible to the average person and to flash the ECU like this requires some pretty expensive gear which is not worthwhile for a one-off job.
One thing bear in mind is if you flash your ECU by mailing it in and without dyno tuning, the changes to the ECU to increase power are more of a “one size fits all” kind of deal rather than changes specially suited to your exact bike (every engine system between the same type of bike can vary greatly!). This means the power your bike can produce will not be as great as a flash created specifically for your bike after running it on the dyno. The difference between ECU Flashing and Dyno tuning will be covered in Part 2.
Here’s a great video that explains a commonly asked question… Do I need to tune my bike if I add a slip-on exhaust?
Here is a video from a very experienced tuner explaining what he does: